We watched the rape trial of NYPD officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata with our eyes half-covered, anticipating ugliness. And indeed it was icky, with slut-shaming and anything else to undermine the accuser. Yesterday came the verdict — not guilty — for the most serious charges, and the reactions have poured in ever since, not doing much to still the stomach-rumblings of those who feel that justice was not done, or that a woman was wronged despite her braveness to follow-through with a case against a powerful police department. Women in general cannot trust those in this city sworn to protect them, some argue. And even some jurors admit to feeling conflicted. It’s over now, but not everyone is done processing.
Today’s edition of the New York Times features words from the jurors, who did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that a rape occurred. “None of us believed anything that anyone said,” one explained. “We have no proof. We’re talking about the letter of the law.”
Three jurors at one point believed the officers were guilty, while nine did not. “Both his and her stories were full of holes,” a juror explained. “And the law says, our good government says, innocent until proven guilty.”
DNA was missing, the taped confession by Moreno in which he admitted to wearing a condom was under some duress, and the woman was very drunk, the jurors said. “I definitely thought some funny business went on,” an alternate juror who saw the evidence said. “Is it possible they raped her? Sure.”
There is a demonstration planned for tonight to protest the verdict. Here, it is hard to differentiate between attacking a jury with a task no one would envy and expressing anger, publicly, over a disgusting case overall. At the Daily Beast, Jesse Ellison explains the anger of many, not directed at the jury:
There is no reason a police officer should enter an intoxicated woman’s apartment. If she’s so intoxicated that the officer thinks he needs to help her to bed, she’s intoxicated enough that the officer should call an ambulance instead. But more importantly: a man who spoons in bed with a virtual stranger–a woman who a short while earlier had been so intoxicated that her driver felt compelled to call 911 is–at the very least, incredibly creepy. The fact that in this case the person in question was wearing a badge and carrying a gun shouldn’t absolve him of guilt. If anything, it should make him even guiltier.
Ellison also tells the story of a friend who says she was raped under similar circumstances, but declined to push the case:
We understood when our friend declined to press on. We’ve all seen what happens in cases like this–accusers’ lives and sexual histories are made public and dissected; even their underpants become part of the public record. Continuing on would have meant remaining immersed in a traumatic experience that she was ready to put behind her.
But Ellison writes that, seven years later, her friend “still says she would never call the cops for help.” She concludes: “It raises a terrifying question if we can’t feel safe with the people we pay to protect us, are we ever safe at all?”
In today’s New York Post, Andrea Peyser has a column called “It’s open season for predators in uniform.” She makes a similar argument and writes, “There is no justice for drunk women.”
The nonsensical verdict ignored every piece of evidence against the men, who found the drunk woman spilling out of a taxi near her Manhattan apartment. The cops then called 911 to report a fictitious suspicious person in her building, so they would have an excuse to enter, and re-enter, the vomit-soaked lady’s place.
Moreno admitted canoodling the drunk gal, and singing Bon Jovi tunes. Later, when the woman demanded to know if both men raped her, Moreno replied, “It was only me.” He said he wore a condom, an exchange caught on audiotape.
“The fabric of trust that existed between women and the police has been shredded to bits,” she concludes.
Today’s demonstration is more about this feeling of betrayal — plus, Moreno and Mata’s clear violations of the standards of their profession — than about shaming the jury. Here are the demands, as listed on Change.org. They are not unreasonable:
1. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly must institute sustained and comprehensive trainings for every incoming class of officers on rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and proper police conduct. A single training session, or a simplistic lecture not to rape, is NOT acceptable.
2. The NYPD must institute a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexualized behavior while on the job. While this case illustrates an extreme example of police officers using their power to abuse women, too many of us have witnessed officers behaving in sexually inappropriate ways while on the job. There is no excuse for that behavior, and the police force must take it seriously. We want an easily-accessible reporting mechanism for sexual assault and harassment at the hands of police officers, and a demonstrated commitment to punishing officers who exploit their position to harass and assault the people they are supposed to protect.
3. The NYPD must be accountable to the New Yorkers they serve in a transparent process for implementing the above two demands. They must keep community leaders, local politicians and New York City residents informed about the initiatives they institute, and how they are working to make sure that an incident similar to the one involving former officers Mata and Moreno does not happen again.
Already, both officers have been fired; they were found guilty of “official misconduct.” And a $57 million civil suit is still pending against the city. But based on the reactions so far, the sting goes deeper and it’s going to stay.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 27, 2011